Customer Access Strategy is The Core That Shapes Technology

Brad Cleveland on creating exceptional customer service

Brad Cleveland, a global customer strategy and management expert discusses the challenges of customer service and the necessary technological investments.

In the contact center industry, there has never been a more critical period of development. Significant changes have occurred due to the proliferation of the internet and smartphones. 

Additionally, emerging technologies such as machine learning, AI, and video capabilities are reshaping the landscape. It is imperative for professionals to engage in continuous learning and actively immerse themselves in this field to adapt to these transformative advancements.

Martech View spoke exclusively to Cleveland, a global customer strategy and management expert and a sought-after consultant and speaker. According to him, it is imperative to choose the right channel for the right purpose while engaging with customers.

Excerpts from the interview:

What challenges do you foresee while enterprises secure seamless customer experience in a post-pandemic world?

The first is essential resource management, and this has been a challenge for many years at the primary level, but with the pandemic and supply chain issues across the world, the context is becoming more complex. Getting the right resources, staff, suitable systems, and tools to handle that workload. 

Another challenge is hiring and keeping the right people at work. We need a team that is engaged and switched on. We need our employees to stay with us and to get experience. Further, omnichannel continues to be challenging for many organizations—true omnichannel is where there is a seamless experience for customers. We will see these challenges attract attention in the coming months, and the best organizations will use them to their advantage to lead and make a difference. 

How are contact center tech stacks transforming? What’s at the core of this evolution?

We see three huge needs;

Strategic Value of Service

It is vital to understand what customer service is telling us about products and services and why customers are having issues in the first place. How can that help us improve our products and services? The tech stack is becoming more helpful in identifying that work. What is driving it and allowing us to use the analysis across the organization to improve products and services?

Contact Centres Becoming R&D Arms

We are becoming a research and development arm—that is very exciting. A second thing we see in the tech stack is stability, scalability, and flexibility—a good thing to add. The cloud is becoming more prevalent in many organizations. More than just the cloud is involved; it is down to the specific capabilities. How scalable and flexible are they?

Tech Stability

Another thing driving the tech stack is usability—how easy is the technology to understand and use? A system might have excellent capabilities but may not be easy for newcomers or those across the organization to use. We see more emphasis on usability and ease of use, learning and getting up to speed.

How do you suggest companies tackle contact center challenges and evaluate their ROI?

There are three levels of value to consider when looking at return on investment. One is that service can be efficient; we want to mitigate work that should not happen in the first place. 

We want to do a great job without work that does happen, so we are creating customer loyalty—that’s the second.

And the third level is strategic, where we learn from that work. How do we improve products, services, and processes across the board? This is the work that happens outside the contact center. 

So, ROI needs to look at all three levels. We want to be efficient, but not at the expense of the higher levels of value. We want the service to be strategic. 

How do you see customer behavior changing?

Many customers are pressured for time handling their personal tasks and professional work worlds; we should do anything we can do to make things simple and easy for them. We should keep them engaged by simplifying products and services.  That will be a real win for organizations focusing on simplification—putting themselves in their customers’ shoes. Customers want the right channel for the right purpose. If organizations need to reach out to their customers, make it seamless and easy.  Going ahead, organizations need to focus on the right channel for the right purpose, they have to choose their channel wisely if they want to reach out to their customers, be it through text notifications, chat, or deciding to use video for face-to-face communication. 

In the next few years, omnichannel will continue to take hold. Then, we want to understand that customers reward us when we have their back and when they most need us.

So when they need help, are we there with the right support? Customers have a very long memory, which will continue to be essential. Those expectations are not exactly new; they are evolving very quickly in terms of the degree to which they want simplicity, ease, and the right channel and things to work together seamlessly.

What must-have solutions will companies need to invest in?

Two angles are super important. What is the customer workload? 

We need technologies that help us understand what that workload is, when it happens, and what it takes to handle it; what channel is best for it, and what are we learning from it to prevent that work in the future through better products and services? That is a significant area of investment. 

The other is on the agent side. It’s true that agent experience drives customer experience. We need our agents to have a great experience and to be an inherent part of the organization—our focus on customer experience. So interacting with agents,  getting their input on innovation, helping them help us shape systems, having them help us shape policies is important.  Ensuring that frontline teams are in an environment where things make sense to them, where the systems are supporting them is essential.

AI is great, but AI is not artificial wisdom. It’s artificial intelligence. So we need agents to have the wisdom, AI tools, and other capabilities to support that process. 

I have never seen a more critical development time in contact centers. We have seen much change with the internet and smartphones, and now new capabilities like machine learning, AI, and video are coming along. So roll your sleeves up, jump into this profession, and learn every day.

What drives technology in CX?

Our customer access strategy is at the core of development that drives and shapes technology. Many organizations are not as thoughtful of a customer access strategy as they need to be. So if you put time into that, it will pay many dividends, and that will help drive you to the right path and focus on the right technologies. Your customer access strategy will depend on what brand you want to represent, what channels you roll out, and how you serve different customers best with different needs. So there is no one overall answer—focus on the customer access strategy, which will guide you on where some of these new capabilities will be most effective.